A recent game I played sparked a conversation between my SO and myself regarding holding back one Miasma while playing the other. While this scenario is fairly specific, the ideas portrayed here should be applicable to other situations.
Player A goes to check, player B is holding 2 Miasmas in hand and no other way to stop player A from forging. When should both be played? When should just one be played? Naturally, there are a lot of caveats, so let’s develop this scenario into multiple different ones, and tackle each one.
Scenario 1 – Empty Board Narrow Hand
Suppose the board is completely empty, and the two Miasmas are the only shadows cards in player B’s hand. In this case playing one Miasma will stall a turn. Player A will play out their turn, and then player B can Miasma again.
If playing Miasma again is all they’re doing, then clearly staggering Miasmas simply hands Player A time to set up a board and gain an advantage. Player B gains nothing from this maneuver. They only get to draw one card, and that is hardly worth giving their opponent time to set up.
If they play both Miasmas then they at least draw two cards, which makes it possible to draw into a way to stop the forge in a more permanent manner, or in one of the other two houses.
Depending on the hand composition, and provided it’s not check for third key, I may just let my opponent forge and get a bigger draw and board. My gain from the stall is minimal, unless I have a high chance of getting a way to stop a forge with one of the other houses I’m holding.
Scenario 2 – Empty Board Wide Hand
Again an empty board, but this time player B is holding four shadows cards in hand. Playing shadows is most likely the right call here, but should one Miasma be held back?
This greatly depends on several factors. How many shadows cards have you seen already? Are you likely to draw into more shadows? If you are, then having another Miasma the following turn along with some more shadows may be worth it.
Are those two extra cards developing your board in a way that is likely to be used the following turn? If yes, then it may be nice to ensure keeping your opponent from forging another turn.
Is one of those cards a Too Much to Protect? Playing a Miasma might bait your opponent into generating more Aember. Holding back both a Too Much to Protect and a Miasma could be handy, but you still run the risk of your opponent developing a board in that time.
There is also the option of holding back one Miasma here, and not going back to shadows the following turn, but I’m going to cover that in a separate article.
Unless I expect to be calling shadows again the following turn, I do not want to stagger my Miasmas. I will play out my entire hand simply for highest hand plus board value.
Scenario 3 – Established Board by Player A
Player A has board control, and Player B has shadows cards that can either be cycled or used to establish some board.
Miasma when your opponent controls the board simply allows them to utilize the board to either grow their aember pool (provided Player A doesn’t have a card like Too Much to Protect in their deck) or invest all their resources into maintaining or developing board control.
Miasma is not a generally good play in this scenario, unless it allows player B to cycle a lot of cards, regain board control, or go into check themselves. But no matter the case, holding back a Miasma is only useful if they’re going to check for third key, and will be able to do so again the following turn in case they are stopped from forging, which probably means a high likelihood to draw into more shadows, or a fair chance of maintaining some board presence.
My most likely decision here would be to cycle my cards, and not hold back a second Miasma.
Scenario 4 – Established Board by Player B
Player A went into check by playing cards while player B has control of the board.
Player B is challenging player A to find an answer to their board, and player A might need to either deal with it or ignore it, depends on the type of deck they’re playing.
If player A can deal with the board, say via a Gateway to Dis, then holding back a Miasma will simply be a hindrance, as we covered in scenario 1, without a board, player B has little to gain from it.
However, if player A chooses to ignore the board, and cycle cards into order to quickly forge keys, staggering Miasmas is going to stop that plan in its tracks.
This is a scenario which greatly rewards remembering opponent archon cards. If they have many ways to deal with my board, I don’t count on coming back to shadows the next turn, and I might as well cycle the Miasma. If they cannot, then choosing to hold it back can be a great boon. It is also very important to note key cheats like Chota Hazri and Key Charge, as they pretty much ignore the effect of Miasma, so holding it is unlikely to be fruitful.
A difficult term to explain, and this article only touched the tip of the iceberg. But generally speaking, Tempo is the momentum the game is going in a player’s favor. In all scenarios Player A has some Tempo as they are in check, but unless they have a board, or are checked for third key, that Tempo is not going to carry them very far. While in scenario 4 player B has Tempo, forcing player A to react, even though player A is the one in check.
Staggering Miasmas can give you tempo and keep challenging your opponent for an answer, but unless you have more to do besides play a Miasma, you’re giving your opponent Tempo while gaining barely any yourself.
Contact and afterward
I hope you enjoyed this little thought experiment with concrete examples. I hope to dive into Tempo on more abstract terms in the near future, but I must admit, the concept is not entirely within my grasp, yet.
In the meantime, check out George Keagle’s article that relates to the subject of tempo. Do note, while his article is excellent, I see it as more of a talk about Opportunity Cost than Tempo.
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